Michael Spooner hopes to continue improvement in the distance area as he did at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational.
Feb. 11, 2010
By Eric Trainer, Associate Director of Media Relations
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Taking part in a battle between three conferences, the University of Tennessee men's and women's track & field teams will travel to College Station, Texas, to compete in the Texas A&M Challenge on Saturday at the Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium at the McFerrin Athletic Center.
UT will join Alabama and Ole Miss to represent the Southeastern Conference, while Texas A&M, Texas and Texas Tech carry the flag for the Big 12, and Houston, Rice and UTEP enter the fray on behalf of Conference USA. On the men's side, ranked teams include No. 1 A&M and No. 10 Texas Tech, while Top 25 women's squads include No. 1 A&M, No. 6 Tennessee and No. 16 UTEP.
According to the meet information site, scoring will be 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 for individual and relay events, with points awarded by conference. Teams will be limited to one quartet each in the distance medley and 4x400m relays, while three entries per squad will be allowed in the field events as well as the 200m, 400m, 800m, mile and 3000m. There will be unlimited entries in the 60m dash and 60m hurdles.
Tennessee will be making a return trip to College Station after the school was represented there twice in 2009. The NCAA Indoor Championships, where the Big Orange women won and the men placed 38th a year ago, were held there. Also, the Lady Vols competed in the facility's inaugural regular-season meet, dropping a dual competition to the Aggies on Jan. 24 by a score of 83-69.
This time, the squad from Rocky Top will do its best to aid the SEC cause. The ultimate goal, however, is to utilize the strong competition and excellent venue in the quest to qualify folks for this year's NCAA Indoor Championships and to continue improvement in advance of the upcoming SEC Indoor meet.
"Our decision to go to the Texas A&M meet was based on the fact they have a good track and that we'd be facing off in a scored type of competition against eight different schools from the SEC, Big 12 and Conference USA," UT Director of Track & Field J.J. Clark said. "It's an opportunity to battle against high-caliber competition, similar to the NCAA meet, and get us comfortable with different venues and different competitors."
"It's also our last big meet before the SEC meet. It gives us a chance to shore up some things and sharpen up different areas as we approach the championship portion of our indoor schedule."
The top-rated performers for the men's team thus far are senior sprinter Evander Wells, who ranks sixth and eighth nationally in the 200 (20.99) and 60 (6.66) meters, respectively; sophomore Desmond Brown, who stands 18th in the long jump (25-0); and a pair of pole vaulters in junior Joe Berry and sophomore Robert Rasnick who rank 27th in the nation with identical best clearances of 17-0 3/4. All five marks are on the NCAA provisional list.
The UT women, meanwhile, boast four NCAA automatic qualifying marks. Senior Phoebe Wright stands first in the nation in the 800 meters (2:04.00), senior Jackie Areson is second in the 3000m (9:07.27), the distance medley relay combo of sophomores Brittany Sheffy, Ellen Wortham and Chanelle Price and Wright rates third at 11:02.85, and Price is No. 4 in the NCAA ranks in the 800m (2:04.72) thus far.
Wright (4:43.50) and Areson (4:43.85) rank seventh and ninth, respectively, in the mile, while junior Annie Alexander is seventh in the shot put (54-7 1/2) and Wortham is 11th in the pentathlon (3,899). All have met the NCAA provisional standard in their events.
Action gets underway at 1 p.m. Eastern time on Saturday is expected to conclude around 7 p.m. ET. To follow the action in College Station, you can click on the live results icon on the scrolling front page schedule at either www.utsports.com or www.utladyvols.com.